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BASTA 2023

Join us August 5th for a Reconsideration of Contemporary Thomistic Metaphysics in Menlo Park. As always BASTA will start with Mass, followed by lectures and discussion and concluding with a continuation of the conversation over dinner.


Our Topic

The Problem of Place

Thomas believed that the heavenly bodies are necessary for the forming of matter. 

What is the right way to think about the relationship between the Physics and the Cosmology of Thomas Aquinas? How much do Thomists need to reconcile the ancient sources with modern physics?

(Summa Theologiae, Prima Pars, Q.115, A. 3)

Our Speakers

A Selection of Onsi Kamel's Previous Work

Kamel's work on Descartes challenges the notion of René Descartes as a radical modern thinker, instead positioning him as a bridge between ancient and modern philosophy. It argues that Descartes' skepticism is not novel, but a reiteration of ancient ideas, particularly those of the Skeptics, Academics, and St. Augustine. Descartes' "Meditations" are seen as a mental exercise to help readers distinguish intellectual matters from corporeal ones, a concept rooted in Neoplatonic truism. This perspective is significant for modern readers as it underscores the continuity of philosophical thought and the enduring relevance of ancient wisdom. It invites us to revisit and reevaluate our understanding of Descartes and his place in the philosophical canon, reminding us that even the most seemingly revolutionary ideas often have deep roots in the past.


Kamel's work "The Beloved Icon: An Augustinian Solution to the Problem of Sex" explores Augustine's view of sex, lust, and pride, suggesting that lust, inherently tied to pride, is intrinsic to the sexual act. This raises a critical question: can sex exist without the violence of prideful lust? The proposed solution lies in Augustinian friendship, which models God's love, realized through participation in the church's sacraments. The goal is 'harmonious unity', extending to all human life, including the sexual. This work complements John Cavadini's idea of a Christ-inspired 'imagination' offering an emotionally free life. In an era where discussions around sexuality are prevalent, Kamal's work provides a unique perspective, suggesting that the issues surrounding sex may be addressed by reorienting love and desire towards God. It offers a spiritual lens to view sexuality, which can enrich the ongoing discourse and provide deeper insights into the intersection of spirituality and sexuality.



A Selection of Brendan Palla's Previous Work

Palla's chapter delves into ancient Greek philosophy, specifically the concept of 'agon' from Homer's works, and its relevance to our modern understanding of fulfillment and success. It distinguishes between two types of 'goods': excellence, which is about succeeding in our roles, and effectiveness, which is about gaining material wealth and status.​In today's world, we often grapple with similar dilemmas: should we strive for excellence in our chosen paths, or should we prioritize material success and social status? This ancient conflict, illustrated through historical figures and Sophocles' Philoctetes, remains relevant today. As for secularity, the document's exploration of these 'goods' and their societal implications can help us understand the secular world better. In a secular society, where religious doctrines don't dictate moral standards, we must navigate these conflicts between personal excellence and material effectiveness ourselves. Understanding these concepts can provide valuable insights into our personal and societal decision-making processes.

On Secularity_edited_edited.jpg

Palla's dissertation explores Thomas Aquinas's philosophy, focusing on moral responsibility, agency, and human action. It argues that our actions' moral value is determined by how they contribute to our ultimate goals, a cornerstone of Thomism (and, obviously, of Aristotle as well). He critiques modern interpretations that suggest we can choose our final end, and thus our actions' moral value, challenging Aquinas's realism about moral judgments. He also discusses 'per accidens unities,' like an army, where the whole can perform actions that its parts cannot. This exploration of Aquinas's thought invites us to reconsider our understanding of morality and responsibility. For the average person, it underscores the importance of our actions in achieving our life goals and the collective impact of individual actions on larger entities, like communities or nations. It's a reminder that our individual and collective actions have moral implications that shape our world.


We hope you will join us for this stimulating exchange of ideas

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